What is employee experience?

Tracking and improving employee experience can help drive performance and efficiency.

You don’t have to be a captain of industry to be familiar with the phrase “The customer is always right.” Ever since pioneering retailers like Marshall Field, John Wannamaker, and Harry Gordon Selfridge helped establish customer satisfaction as the number-one business ideal, organizations around the world have been focusing on the customer experience.

But while customers are certainly the lifeblood of business, they aren’t the only factors driving success. Consider your employees.

Your employees keep your business running, powering day-to-day operations and acting as the face of your brand. They produce your products, provide your services, fulfill vital customer-service and customer-support roles, and are valuable sources of insight. As such, many businesses are beginning to recognize employee experience as a powerful indicator of future success.

But what is employee experience, and how can a clearer focus on employees benefit your business?

Employee experience definition

The term employee experience describes how employees think and feel through every single touchpoint during their time with a company. Employee experience traces the entire employee journey, with the goal of creating a satisfied, dedicated workforce.

Employee Journey

This shift of focus towards employees isn’t an arbitrary one. It’s a recognized fact that happier, more engaged employees are naturally more productive—up to 31% more productive. Unfortunately, while 85% of new employees start their tenure with a company feeling enthusiastic, that enthusiasm tends to drop off over time.

As their employees become less engaged, companies suffer. In fact, Gallup’s most recent State of the American Workplace report estimates that disengaged employees may be costing US businesses a combined $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity.

Employee engagement affects every aspect of a business. And, as a result, employee experience is of crucial importance. In fact, Deloitte’s 2021 Global Human Capital Trends reports that 80% of executives identify employee well-being as “important” or “very important” to their organization’s success.

Examples of areas affected by employee experience include the following:

Employee engagement

Although similar to employee experience, employee engagement is actually something different.

Employee engagement describes the level of enthusiasm and dedication an employee has to the work they are being paid to do. An engaged employee is more productive and represents their company in a positive light, where a disengaged employee produces less, and represents their company more negatively. Simply put, high employee engagement is a goal; tracking and improving employee experience is a strategy for improving employee engagement.

Employee engagement is directly connected to productivity and turn-over rates, as well as other important metrics of business success.


When an employee has a bad personal experience with a company, that experience seldom remains personal for long. Today’s advanced communications technologies and increased availability of social media and review-site options provide employees a range of forums to air their grievances. And those bad reviews can have a big impact on your recruiting.

According to a recent survey from Fractl, one in three job seekers have turned down a job offer because of an online review they read about a company. A strong employee experience can help reduce the number of negative reviews posted by current and ex employees, thus improving your chances of attracting top talent.


Once you have skilled employees supporting your business, one of your top priorities should be keeping them. It’s estimated that it costs a third of a worker’s annual salary to find and train that worker’s replacement. By properly onboarding, training, motivating, and continually engaging your employees, you help ensure that your best people remain with the company for years to come.


While recruiting, engaging, and retaining top talent are all important factors in business success, they all come down to a single essential metric: money. As previously addressed, a positive employee experience promotes increased productivity, and thus increased revenue. Happy employees also perform tasks with 19% more accuracy, and make 37% more sales.

Taken together, these factors demonstrate that improving the employee experience is a golden opportunity for improving your business.

The employee experience describes the entirety of the events, incidents, feelings, etc. had by an employee during their time with your company. With this in mind, it’s important to recognize how to accurately gauge and quantify the employee experience at each stage in the employee lifecycle.

Employee lifecycle

Recruitment stage

Your recruitment process is often the very first encounter a prospective employee will have with your company and culture. As such, you have the chance to create a positive employee experience right from the start—not only for those you end up hiring, but also for those whom you decide not to bring on board.

After you interview candidates, follow up with them to gather any relevant feedback you can. Learn about how the application process, interviews, response times, etc. are affecting how potential hires perceive your business.

Onboarding stage

Once an employee is committed to joining your team, your next step is to help them acclimate into their position. The onboarding process includes orientation, as well as the comprehensive process of transitioning a new hire into becoming an experienced member of your organization. Many HR experts say that the onboarding process may last a year or even longer.

As your hires transition into their assigned roles, it is up to you to check in on them and develop an accurate idea of their ongoing experience. Recognize that a lot of new hires may be unwilling to criticize existing processes or company culture, so you may need to be very direct in your questions as you solicit feedback.

Read about how Asurion turned exceptional onboarding practices into a competitive advantage.

Development stage

The development stage is where your employee settles into their position. They begin to develop new professional skills and possibly identify a career path within the company. Encouraging employees to be responsible for their continued learning, and recognizing and rewarding employees that exemplify this trait, will help create a positive employee experience during this stage.

Once again, targeted surveys can help you chart the employee experience at this level. At the same time, you will need to identify any aspect of your company that may be causing friction. For example, time spent searching for available desks, conference rooms, and colleagues, along with issues related to resolving equipment problems and locating important company information, can all create frustrations for developing employees.

Retention stage

As your employees establish themselves and begin demonstrating their true value, they enter the retention stage of the employee lifecycle. In this stage, improving employee experience means keeping these top employees happy, while also challenging them in their roles. Additionally, you should be promoting positive, honest relationships within teams and ensuring open communication across all levels.

Employee feedback during the retention stage may be even more valuable than at earlier stages. These are individuals who understand your business, brand, and customers, and will likely have keen insights. Weekly face to face meeting and pulse surveys can help you develop a clear picture of the employee experience during the retention stage.

Offboarding stage

As employees move on to other opportunities, they are entering the end of their employee experience with your company. That said, their journey is over yet—the offboarding experience can provide useful insight and help you reduce future turnover.

Continue to solicit feedback from departing employees. Dig down deep into their reasons for wanting to leave so that you can address any issues that might be driving away your top talent. Hold an exit interview when possible, and encourage candid discussion about your company culture. Employees who are on their way out may be more willing to talk honestly about problems within the organization, so don’t miss your chance to share in their observations.

Other relevant employee moments

Given the impact of social distancing, there are a number of other important employee stages that may be worth addressing. Transitioning to working at home, returning to the workplace after being away for an extended period of time, taking long leaves of absence, remote-work onboarding, furloughs, and reboarding after furlough are all impactful employee moments.

As at the other stages, requesting feedback from your employees can be the best way to gauge the overall employee experience, and will allow you to improve processes and policies.

Listening to employee feedback and identifying potential issues is a good way to promote a more-positive employee experience. However, given the importance of happy, engaged employees, many businesses choose to take things further. Employee experience management makes this possible.

What is employee experience management?

Employee experience management describes the tools, strategies, and initiatives for improving each touchpoint along the employee journey.

In other words, employee experience management takes a detailed, analytical look at the employee experience, striving to understand the impact of touchpoints, events, and interactions on employee behavior and attitude. The end goal of employee experience management is improved employee engagement, and all of the benefits that go along with it.

Why employee experience management is important

In terms of improving the employee experience, many companies have a long way to go. In fact, the ServiceNow Employee Experience Imperative reports that 52% of employees do not believe that their employers are invested in improving their employee experience, and 55% of employees do not feel their opinions and perspectives matter to their employers.

Addressing this lack of trust and promoting a healthy work environment where employees feel valued are perhaps the most important goals in employee experience management. Additionally, effective employee experience management benefits businesses in a number of ways, including the following:

  • Improved employee onboarding
  • Better employee retention
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Reduced employee attrition
  • Increased revenue
  • More-positive customer experiences

Naturally, every business and every workforce will face its own unique challenges in creating an effective approach to employee experience management. ServiceNow provides top solutions designed to improve employee satisfaction and productivity, and build a foundation of positive employee experience for your business.

The path to improved employee experience will depend heavily on your industry, your company culture, and your individual employees. Still, there are several steps that nearly any organization can take to help promote a more-positive employee experience.

Identify top priorities

In improving the employee experience, it can be tempting to want to tackle every stage of the employee lifecycle all at once. However, you will likely see better success if you focus on one stage at a time. Prioritize where you want to improve the employee experience based upon your most pressing need. For example, if you are losing a high number of employees during their first year, then you may wish to focus on the onboarding stage.

Do research and gather data

Improving the employee experience takes reliable data. After identifying the stage you wish to prioritize, you will next need to start gathering feedback. Recognize that in order to create an accurate picture of what employees are experiencing, you will need a large amount of reliable information. Don’t rush the process; take things slowly and deliberately, and ensure that the feedback you get is actionable.

Define the employee experience you want to create

As you gather data, it’s important to have your goals firmly in mind. What kind of employee experience are you trying to create? What areas do you wish to target? By clearly mapping out your objectives and the hurdles that may be standing in your way, you will have a clearer idea of the steps you will need to take.

Empower action

The feedback you receive should give you a clear idea of potential trouble areas in your organization; don’t sit on this information. Look at large, organization-spanning issues, as well as more specific details, and identify the people, teams, departments, or processes that might be negatively impacting the overall employee experience. Then, make changes where necessary.

Report back

As you receive feedback and take action, be sure to include relevant parties in the process. Regular communication to share feedback and strategy will help ensure that employees and decision makers are buying into improving the employee experience.


Just as it takes time to gather enough data to identify problem areas, it also takes time to resolve those problems. As you make changes within your organization, use your existing feedback tools to evaluate the effectiveness of your strategies. This will allow you to make course corrections where necessary.


When it comes to employee experience, there’s no such thing as done. Continually revisit areas and stages of the employee lifecycle and reassess the kind of employee experience you are offering.

Your customers may be the lifeblood of your business, but your employees are the heart. Understanding and improving the employee experience—from initial recruitment thorough final offboarding—will help you create an exceptional company culture. More than that, it will help you better serve your customers, and grow your business as you do so.

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